Last week I talked about W/R Slide - while Darksteel doesn't really change this deck much, many readers were itching to know what Darksteel does change. I would say the decks that benefit the most from Darksteel are White Weenie and Affinity.
But first, I digress. I want to talk about White Weenie. One of my favorite White Weenie stories involved a man by the name of Elliot Fung, who a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, won Regionals with his White Weenie deck. Now Elliot was a decent player, and he knew his stuff, but White Weenie was probably the fifth-best deck in the environment. However, because White Weenie is so consistent and aggressive, he won all the marbles. From that day forth, he was known as the champ.
White Weenie is such a strange deck - it doesn't try to mise. It doesn't burn out players or use fancy tricks. It plays guys. Stand up guys that you can depend on, like Savannah Lions. They will arrive, swing, and get the job done. No frills, just beats. Somehow I always find myself writing about White Weenie every year. It is very stable - very White. It is always a contender even the harshest of environments.
That being said, White Weenie is probably one of the scariest decks to play at a tournament. Why?
Well how do you deal with X card?
I attack them.
How do you deal with Y card?
I attack them.
How do you deal with them attacking you?
I attack them, but harder!
You see my point.
So back to Darksteel and White Weenie. What does Darksteel add? Well, there are two obvious cards that everyone is talking about. The first is Leonin Shikari - the man with the plan, the mastermind that will make Equipment tricky. The second is Skullclamp, probably the best card to be printed since Tolarian Academy. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating, but I'm not so sure.
Back to the Shikari. Everyone seems to like the card, but I'm more critical of cards than most people. I think the Shikari actually adds very little value to White Weenie. I would be much happier if Mother of Runes was reprinted. Moving around Equipment as an instant is not a big deal. Yes, it helps your combat trades, but Constructed was never really about combat trades. For two mana I would rather get a First Striker or a Flyer. The thing that everyone likes Shikari for is the effect is has with Lightning Greaves.
Here is the rub. Lightning Greaves sucks in White Weenie. I am not talking about mediocre - I am talking about sucking - really bad. White Weenie wants to get its hand on the table and pound threats onto the table. It wants to drop two one-drops on turn 2 or play a Bonesplitter and equip a dude. White Weenie also has a multitude of guys - protecting one means that they will just kill the other, and all of your guys are about the same power level. Shikari with Greaves is a powerful combo, but for a two-card combo where one of the cards sucks in your deck and the other is mediocre - well, that sort of combo should make you win the game, not have a similar effect to playing Steely Resolve.
While I do think Shikari is good enough to play a few copies of, I do not think Greaves is worth your time or mana. By playing a few copies of Shikari, you allow yourself to get a win with Empyrial Plate - attacking with a bunch of creatures and moving the Plate to the unblocked one. This will never come up unless you already have a Skullclamp out to draw lots of cards and find the Plate/Shikari with, but it does have a nice effect and it certainly worth the three slots in the deck. At the very least they are two decent creatures and one powerful Equipment.
About Skullclamp - this card changes Magic the way Necropotence changed Magic. Where life turned into cards, now creatures turn into cards. Raise the Alarm is no longer a combat trick, it's now an Uno cards and reads"Draw 4." Every one-toughness creature gets the added ability of"1, sac: Draw 2." If you ever get two Skullclamps into play, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Skullclamp makes your opponent not want to block or attack. It is the end all and be all - it is the master of combat and drawing cards. No card has been printed with such a profound effect on the way the game is played since... well... Necropotence. This is your weapon of choice against every problem.
Now that I have talked about my Darksteel choices, here is the deck:
3 Chrome Mox
4 Silver Knight
1 Empyrial Plate
2 Wrath of God
2 Leonin Shikari
4 Auriok Glaivemaster
4 Deftblade Elite
4 Leonin Skyhunter
4 Raise the Alarm
4 Auriok Steelshaper
I would like to make this disclaimer early - I play my decks slightly land-light. This came up as a topic last week with the Slide deck. If you feel uncomfortable playing a little land light, then swap two cards for Plains, easy as that. Personally, I feel that there is enough mana in here, considering that only two cards in the deck cost more than two mana. The only mana-intensive part of the deck are the Equip costs, and those are negated by the four Steelshapers, which I find to be an excellent card for White-based Equipment decks.
Note that in this deck Savannah Lion is the odd man out, being the only really good creature not to make an appearance. While I really like the Lion, it does not get pumped by the Steelshapers, and is not synergistic with the deck. Still, if you want to play this bad boy (and I would if I were you), I would try cutting some of the 2 mana guys for him, like Shikari or Skyhunter. Of course, if I cut Shikari then I wouldn't have much to talk about in this article, now would I?
Control has traditionally been a slightly difficult matchup for White Weenie because even though it is a beatdown deck, it has always been a slower variety of beatdown deck, with little explosiveness and no finishers. I believe this is no longer true. The quality of the Weenies has vastly improved over the past two years, and you can really see the difference.
Also, with the advent of Skullclamp, all of the matchups where they want to Wrath away your creatures become much better. I would recommend not over-committing your creature to the board and riding your Equipment to victory. I dare say that this deck can put an aggressive clock on them while recouping card advantage with Skullclamp to the point where this matchup might actually become good. Just try to sneak your good stuff like Skullclamps in under the countermagic.
It sounds janky, but I would possibly sideboard in four Savannah Lions for four Skyhunters. You really need the evasion effect of the Skyhunter against the creature decks to force through damage, but without any blockers, Savannah Lion becomes about twice as good as Skyhunter could hope to be. At this point I would like to reiterate how Savannah Lions could easily go into the maindeck, but it really depends on your metagame. Gilded Light can also come in if you are afraid of getting Mindslavered, but if the game gets to that point, you are probably not going to win anyhow. Stabilizer may want to make an appearance in your sidebaord - I know it sounds odd, but the card is great versus Slide and pretty good against U/W and mono-White - it stops Decree of Justice, Complicate, and Eternal Dragon, and often will leave them with a rather bad hand when staring down a horde of weenies. Not to mention that it shuts down the card drawing engine of Wayfarer and Cycling Lands.
Vs. Mono White
Once again, the similarities between this matchup and U/W are apparent. The only thing I would be a little more careful of it Decree of Justice. Both decks play them, but mono-White usually plays more. This matchup is better for you than U/W, because they don't have countermagic to deal with Skullclamps. Just ride the Equipment to victory. You will lose games to being too slow sometimes, but the Moxen really help with this, and sometimes you get the ridiculous Steelshaper/Skullclamp thing going, where you can draw a lot of cards - mono-White really has no was to deal with this.
One again I recommend Savannah Lions and Stabilizer for sideboarding. There really is not a whole lot that White Weenie can bring in against this sort of deck. Rishadan Port and Tangle Wire would be great, but those days are long gone...
This is where you will be thanking Wizards for printing Silver Knight. Yes, Pyrite Spellbomb kills him. That is, unless he is being pumped by the Steelshaper. Either way, the Knight presents a big threat while you come in through the air with Skyhunters or pick off their little goblins with Deftblade Elites. Don't fight a creature battle with white weenie, they will wreck you. Skullclamp just compounds the issue. I doubt any Red decks will be playing with cards like Goblin Goon in the maindeck with cards like Skullclamp making blocking so attractive. I would dare to say that this matchup is very, very good.
Sideboarding can only make this match better. You can go with COP: Red and if you really feel a strong Goblin metagame coming, you can add Foothill Guides. Seriously though - don't bother going any farther than COP: Red.
You will have more trouble with the burn version of Affinity, since the control version just plays a bunch of creatures that you shouldn't have too much trouble with, minus Broodstar. Generally, this matchup is going to be Broodstar vs. the world. Affinity players will find it difficult to attack with Broodstar and not die the next turn. Make sure you do all your combat calculations very carefully.
When you do play against the burn version, beware the Atogs - leave a Knight back for that guy! Try to keep your life total high and put a steady four turn clock on them.
Sideboarding versus Affinity can yield some interesting results. I would recommend combat tricks like Awe Strike or Blinding Beam. I don't think this build has enough mana to support the Beam, but Awe Strike works fine. Sword of Fire and Ice is another card that has a great impact versus Affinity, due to the ability to give your flier Protection from Blue, nullifying a Broodstar. If you add more mana to your deck, then you might want to explore the possibility or more Wraths/Solar Tides. While I don't want to play them in my particular version due to lots of WW spells, Blinkmoth Nexus can help against Broodstar as well.
Slide is much like the other control matchups, except that they are much better at containing you. Your Silver Knights are once again your best creatures, since they survive Lightning Rift and Starstorm. Try to equip them with Bonesplitters and beat down. Equip all your non-protection creatures with Skullclamp when possible. This is the one matchup where the Greaves/Shikari combo would pay off, and if you have four Shikaris in your version of White Weenie, boarding in a few Greaves could be good. This match-up is not great, but if you are lucky enough to draw Skullclamp, it can be bearable. Just keep plugging away and hope to run them out of removal. Don't overextend, whatever you do!
Sideboarding in Stabilizers will really help this matchup, putting a kink in Slide's plans and allowing you to beat down in the meantime.
Black Versus White!
The Epic struggle!
Fight Hordes of Zombies!
Okay, so it might not be your next summer blockbuster movie, but playing this matchup can literally feel like trying to bust through a room full of zombies with an AK-47. So maybe I've never done that outside of a Resident Evil game, but it is tough. While you will win the creature battles, Zombie has a way of making their guys come back, especially without any good way to deal with Rotlung Renimator besides Deftblade Elite, and I wouldn't exactly call that a great solution. Your Skyhunters are your best weapons here - just keep punching them through with Equipment and you should be able to stave off the zombie beats. Boarding in Karma or White Knights will help. You could also Board in True Believer if you are afraid of the more control-ish versions of Black.
Vs R/G LD
R/G is a rather good matchup. I am convinced this is because R/G just isn't a very good deck. You see, the plan of R/G is usually to blow up lands, slowing down the control decks enough to play out some hard to deal with threats - except they tend to lose the games where they do that. That being said, a fast deck with low casting cost things will tear right through a deck like this. You might lose if they kill every last one of your lands and you run out, but that is pretty hard to do even if you are only running seventeen (plus three Moxen), especially if you draw one of your Skullclamps.
Vs White Weenie Mirror Match
Well - let's just say this... the battle will be fast and furious, yet long and hard - depending on who gets the Skullclamp. The best way of dealing with this matchup might be boarding in some sort of artifact removal for the Clamp, but your options are severely limited. My advice is just play well, and hopefully you will be on the winning side of the 50/50. The most important card in this matchup besides the Skullclamp is probably the Skyhunter, since most of your damage will come from that.
If you have Blinding Beams in your sideboard, here is where to use them. If you went with the Awe Strikes, that is fine too - you should be able to kill at least a Skyhunter with it or win a race unexpectedly. The only other interesting option might be Frontline Strategist - he's not great but merely okay. If you are really worried about this matchup I would just recommend putting four Exalted Angels in your sideboard - you can use them against Black and Red as well.
White Weenie remains a solid choice for the masses. It takes guts to play, but it can get the job done. Wizards has been trying to get more and more people to play White Weenie by making better cards for it - is this the year for it? Perhaps...
Until next week, get inside the metagame.